September 26, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles and other parts of Earth in 2065 and in 2070, the sci-fi action film “The Creator” features a predominantly white and Asian cast of characters (with a few black people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: In a post-apocalyptic world, artificial intelligence (A.I..) beings fight for their rights to be treated as equal to human beings, who are hunting and killing rebel A.I. beings on behalf of the U.S. government.
Culture Audience: “The Creator” will appeal primarily to those who like sci-fi films that have a lot of visual spectacle but not much of a cohesive plot.
“The Creator” takes a big swing and misses in its commentary on whether or not human beings and artificial intelligence beings can peacefully co-exist. The last half-hour of this sci-fi misfire is a mess of plot holes, while the film irresponsibly ignores other real-world prejudices. The movie’s visual effects and cinematography are fairly impressive, but “The Creator” is truly a case of style over substance.
Directed by Gareth Edwards (who co-wrote “The Creator” with Chris Weitz), “The Creator” takes place in 2065 and mostly in 2070, in a world still recovering from an apocalypse. It’s explained in the beginning of the movie, through a montage of news reports, that a war began after a nuclear bomb was detonated in Los Angeles in 2055. A mysterious artificial intelligence (A.I.) genius named Nirmata, who is worshipped by A.I. beings as their god, is widely believed to be responsible for this disaster. Nirmata is the leader of a rebellious group of A.I. beings that want humans to stop treating them like slaves and start giving A.I. beings the same, equal rights as humans.
As a result of this bombing, the U.S. government has been at war with the rebellious A.I. beings that the U.S. military has been tasked with shutting down wherever they can find them. By contrast, a region called New Asia doesn’t believe in this policy and is sheltering A.I. beings. The U.S. government has said that they’re at war with the A.I. beings, not New Asia, but there’s an undertone of xenophobia in the U.S. military activities that take place in New Asia. Many of the movie’s combat scenes are deliberately made to remind people of the Vietnam War. (“The Creator” was actually filmed in Thailand and London.)
Early in the movie, a raid takes place in New Asia in 2065, where an undercover U.S. military sergeant named Joshua Taylor (played by John David Washington) and his pregnant wife Maya (played by Gemma Chan) experience a home invasion by U.S. military soldiers who have gotten a tip that Nirmata is hiding in this home. Joshua, who is originally from Los Angeles, lost his parents and brother in the nuclear bombing that hit Los Angeles in 2055. Joshua insists to the home invaders that Nirmata is not in this home.
The rest of the story takes place in 2070, and it involves Joshua becoming a fugitive and going on the run with a Nirmata-affiliated A.I. being that Joshua names Alphie (played by Madeleine Yuna Voyles), who has the appearance of a human girl who’s about 9 or 10 years old. Alphie has the ability to move large objects and change thoughts just by using her mind. She is considered to be Nirmata’s ultimate “weapon.” Alphie is also the catalyst when Joshua has to make a decision about which side of the war will ultimately get his support.
The chief “villains” in the story are U.S. military officials General Andrews (played by Ralph Ineson) and Colonel Jean Howell (played by Allison Janney), who are hell-bent on destroying as many A.I. beings as possible. Colonel Howell is sent to do most of the dirty work. One of her motives is that she lost a son in this war, and she blames A.I. beings for his death. Joshua has two colleagues who are also in the mix: Drew (played by Sturgill Simpson) is Joshua’s best friend and a former war buddy. Shipley (played by Robbie Tann) is a U.S. military sharpshooter. The characters of Drew and Shipley are very generic and almost forgettable.
“The Creator” is a movie that wants viewers to believe that racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism and other harmful bigotries have somehow magically disappeared from Earth, and the only bigotry that matters is the prejudice that humans have against A.I. beings. These other prejudices aren’t just sidelined. They are completely erased in the movie, as if they never existed at all. Keep in mind that this story takes place only 42 to 47 years after “The Creator” was released in 2023. It’s highly problematic to suggest that these real-world problems no longer exist, in a movie whose very premise is about species bigotry. Other nations seem to have “disappeared” too, since there’s no mention of any other countries being allies on either side of this U.S. war against the A.I. beings of New Asia.
Furthermore, for a movie where some of it takes place in Los Angeles, there are hardly any Latinos in sight, when (as of 2023) Latinos are the majority race in Los Angeles and is a demographic that continues to grow in that area. Are we supposed to believe that this apocalypse mostly wiped out Latinos? The world’s racial demographics in “The Creator” are presented as mostly white and Asian, with a few people from other races scattered here and there. The great actor Ken Watanabe has a small, mostly thankless role as Harun, who is an ally of Nirmata.
The identity issues wouldn’t be worth mentioning if this entire movie hadn’t been built on its clumsily handled plot that the world is in a vicious war against beings because of different identities. Bigotry is based on ideas of superiority and power, but those ideas are just reduced to “shoot ’em up” scenes and chase scenes where humans and A.I. beings fight each other. The biggest bright spot in the movie is the performance of Voyles. She absolutely shines in her role as Alphie, who displays convincing human emotions, despite being an A.I. creation. All the other characters in “The Creator” are stereotypes, with mediocre performances to match.
“The Creator” is also one of those irritating movies that does enough “fake-out deaths,” it will make some viewers think that it’s trying to be like any of the most recent movies in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise. Even in the realm of science fiction, “The Creator” has too many plot holes that undermine what could have been a much better movie. The logic is sorely deficient in many of the action scenes, which often have sloppy editing, in order to cover up these glaring plot holes. Some people might praise “The Creator” for being brilliant and ahead of its time, but the movie’s story is actually quite backward-thinking, simple-minded, and somewhat insulting to the intelligence of viewers expecting a quality sci-fi story that takes place on Earth in the 21st century.
20th Century Studios will release “The Creator” in U.S. cinemas on September 29, 2023.